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Ron Paul’s Racist Newsletters, Take 3

Ta-Nehisi Coates sums up the controversy over Ron Paul’s racist newsletters very well and also nails, I think, the nature of racism itself as a form of victimology. He writes:

Racism, like all forms of bigotry, is what it claims to oppose–victimology. The bigot is never to blame. Always is he besieged–by gays and their radical agenda, by women and their miniskirts, by fleet-footed blacks. It is an ideology of “not my fault.” It is not Ron Paul’s fault that people with an NAACP view of the world would twist his words. It is not Ron Paul’s fault that his newsletter trafficked in racism. It is not Ron Paul’s fault that he allowed people to author that racism in his name. It is anonymous political aids and writers, who now cowardly refuse to own their words. There’s always someone else to blame–as long as it isn’t Ron Paul, if only because it never was Ron Paul.

This is not a particular tragedy for black people. The kind of racism which Paul trafficked is neither innovative nor original. Even his denials recall the obfuscations of Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens. But some pity should be reserved for the young and disgruntled, for those who dimly perceive that something is wrong in this country, for those who are earnestly appalled by the madness of our criminal justice policy, for those who have watched a steady erosion of our civil liberties, and have seen their concerns met with an appalling silence on the national stage. That their champion should be, virtually by default, a man of mixed motives and selective courage, is sad.

He also notes that Ron Paul’s initial response to at least some of the racist things said in his newsletters was not to deny that he had written them or knew they existed, but to defend them. That’s an important data point when considering the issue.

None of this makes Ron Paul’s many laudable positions any less laudable. When it comes to issues like executive power, illegal government surveillance, the war on drugs, foreign military interventions, excessive defense spending, torture and rendition, our failed criminal justice system and more, Ron Paul is one of less than a handful of prominent political leaders who are consistently on the right side of all of them. But this and several other issues, which I’ll spell out in more detail over the next couple days, prevent me from supporting him.

Comments

  1. Michael Heath says

    I think what causes some people to be attracted to Ron Paul is that he appears to be principled. Principled in a manner that when he’s confronted with an inconvenient set of facts he apparently adapts his position in light of these facts and the Constitution he swore to defend. That he’s to be respected because he takes this stand rather than taking the predominant path by conservatives of seeking out rhetorical fallacies to maintain a loyalist position within the conservative[-libertarian] tribe. I can perceive how this could be appealing, even to some conservatives.

    I however don’t buy it. I think Rep. Paul’s an actor playing principled and merely better than most at acting out the part. This puts him in fellow actor John McCain’s category where their respective reputations serve them well as long as they aren’t scrutinized too closely. Rep. Paul’s been at it so long and given that he’s largely gotten away with this schtick, I think we’ll be in for some entertaining pouting and whining sessions when his reputation is justifiably assailed and he loses the nomination.

  2. Doubting Thomas says

    “None of this makes Ron Paul’s many laudable positions any less laudable.”

    So how do we know these actually are his positions? The man is a liar.

  3. Michael Heath says

    Doubting Thomas writes:

    So how do we know these actually are his positions? The man is a liar.

    Since all politicians with power are liars, how do you decide which ones to laud for their positions? Or do you dismiss all politicians with power? Or do you distinguish between those you deem as generally honest from those who you deem as generally dishonest?

  4. says

    I disagree that his positions are laudable. Some of the outcomes overlap with laudable positions.

    It’s the same as arguing Stalin is the archatheist of atrocity because of his attack on the Russian church. It ignores that despite any overlap in goals with violent anti-theists, Stalin was motivated by the desire to consolidate political power away from the church. If aware of this even the most radical anti-theist who wanted the institution of the Orthodox church dismantled could not honestly argue that Stalin was in the right for his position because the dismantling wasn’t the goal, just a side effect of his real actions.

    It’s the same with Ron Paul, anything he says that is good isn’t his goal…it’s a side effect of his ideology which is “no gov for anyone, lets go back to the 1890s”.

  5. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    None of this makes Ron Paul’s many laudable positions any less laudable.

    Give me a few years and maybe, after long and diligent study of Paul’s positions, I possibly could almost be able to name something which might, if not looked at too hard and given a charitable disposition, maybe could conceivably seem vaguely like approaching an ambiguously laudable position.

    But I doubt it.

    Ron Paul is an economic illiterate, a conspiracy nut and a racist who refuses to deviate from an anti-humanist ideology. He claims he wants government off peoples’ backs, as long as those people aren’t doing things Paul objects to, like abortion and same-sex marriage. He’s anti-science, cares nothing about other Americans, and pretends that the social contract doesn’t exist. I find nothing laudable about Paul or his hateful ideology.

  6. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    It’s the same as arguing Stalin is the archatheist of atrocity because of his attack on the Russian church. It ignores that despite any overlap in goals with violent anti-theists, Stalin was motivated by the desire to consolidate political power away from the church. If aware of this even the most radical anti-theist who wanted the institution of the Orthodox church dismantled could not honestly argue that Stalin was in the right for his position because the dismantling wasn’t the goal, just a side effect of his real actions.

    I hope that any anti-theist with a scrap of morality would argue that regardless of his goals Stalin’s methods- mass imprisonment and murder- would be just as wrong if they were meant purely to dismantle the institution of the Orthodox church.

  7. dingojack says

    Gretchen – As the RRR might say: Matthew 7:16 “You will fully recognize them by their fruits. Do people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?”
    Dingo

  8. Who Knows? says

    ‘Tis Himself, OM. says;

    Ron Paul is an economic illiterate, a conspiracy nut and a racist who refuses to deviate from an anti-humanist ideology. He claims he wants government off peoples’ backs, as long as those people aren’t doing things Paul objects to, like abortion and same-sex marriage. He’s anti-science, cares nothing about other Americans, and pretends that the social contract doesn’t exist. I find nothing laudable about Paul or his hateful ideology.

    Well said.

  9. says

    I’m tired of hearing about the racist newsletters only because there have been several more newsletters, fundraising letters, etc. that have surfaced recently that are far more damning in terms of Ron Paul’s kookiness. I know that racism gets special opprobrium, and with good reason, but when a guy predicts back in the early 1990s that counterfeit-proof currency is a sign of coming totalitarianism, and he issues dire, end-of-the-world warnings for how to prepare, then racism is the least of his problems. The guy is missing his marbles. Racism is a moral failing; paranoid conspiracy mongering is a brain disease.

  10. says

    Area Man:

    “Racism is a moral failing; paranoid conspiracy mongering is a brain disease.”

    Dooooooh! You’ve just given the Paultardlicanignoramabots a NEW talking point.

    He’s actually doing both.

    Your comment is PROOF that Dr. Paul, in a complex and dynamic worldviewsytemology CAN multitask!

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